Saturday the 8th of January 2011 is a day that will stay with us, just like many other days when acts of terrorism, foreign and domestic in origin, stay with us.
The day of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, her staff members and all those gathered to witness our democracy in action, the bit that we like to think works, when congress members actually appear to hear the concerns of their district. Gabrielle was doing her job, one she loved and felt privileged to be able to do. I remember her consistent thanks after the election last year; “I’m honored to represent Southern Arizona”
The whole community in Tucson is in mourning, and hoping that the injured congresswoman can recover from her serious injuries.
Success and Failure
I keep hearing great praise for the way all involved responded to this horrific event, from the heros who prevented further death by subduing Jared Loughner, to the medical evac teams and the trauma personnel at UMC. That is the success we can take away from this, but it’s little consolation.
The failure of course can be drawn from the months leading up to this event. September and November 2010. Loughner was removed from a Pima Community College class, after he consistently disrupted classmates with ranting and odd behavior, even driving some to drop the class fearing their safety. The teacher said he watched Loughner like a hawk, watching to see if he was getting ready to draw a weapon.
After he was removed from campus, the college sent a letter to his family stating he could return to his studies after seeking help from a certified mental health professional.
This apparently fell on deaf ears. We have no way of knowing if Loughners parents read the letter, or to what degree they took an interest in his mental health, but in November 2010 he purchased a firearm. Lets think about that a minute. You can’t attend class, because your classmates are fearing for their safety; you’re disrupting the learning environment and even making the teacher uncomfortable. But heck, you can buy a Glock 19 and 3 31 round magazines no problem.
This is our biggest failure as a community, as a state and as a nation. There is no system which allows red flags to appear in information that gun retailers are able to look at warnings from institutions on mental health or death threats, educational or otherwise.
I have no idea how such a system would work, but I don’t think it would be too hard to implement. But several priorities are being ignored here. The priority of the College is to protect its students from violent behavior; they can expel the student. But no system is in place, other than the Police that can prevent the student from purchasing a hand gun, even after the college has deemed his condition fit for attention of a mental health professional, and returning to said college and reigning death on everyone.
Another priority is amiss. That of the gun store. I can hardly imagine the conversation that took place, and cannot imagine that a purchase of a pistol and 3 31 round magazines, I’ll keep coming back to this because it’s astonishing, didn’t pique the cashier’s interest. Was no attempt made to talk to the customer, generate a rapport, discover where he shoots, what he shoots at and why he needs the capacity of 93 rounds on hand at the range ? A few answers to simple questions may have aroused suspicion, but depending on the priorities of the seller, perhaps not.
I must not have a clue, but when I’ve been shooting, the biggest magazine you’re likely to need is 8-10 in a .45 and 13-14 in a 9mm anything more is just greedy, or lazy.
There is no other purpose to a 31 round mag than allowing the shooter to spray a large number of rounds in a short amount of time. What legitimate sporting activity requires this ?
Well, perhaps we need the ability to spray 30 rounds at various desert targets because its fun. We have the freedom to enjoy any activity we may as long as it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others; and we have the right to sell said implement of fun for profit.
I don’t understand gun lovers who are for less hassle when buying a firearm, shorter waiting times and less or no permits. You love guns that much, you respect the second amendment so greatly that you’re willing to make it as easy as buying candy for anyone to get a gun ?
Why ? When guns fall into the hands of the mentally ill, the idiotic and irrational, it only calls gun rights into question. Protecting your rights to own a gun also should extend to a need to see that not every idiot is able to get one.
I’m already hearing the rumbling of the anti-gun crowd, on issues of mental health and gun ownership I stand with them.
What next ?
I read this post yesterday and while it talks about the political climate that may have pushed Loughner over the edge, it also talks about what’s next ? Now that “someone has done something stupid” and looks at another event in history that was a pre-cursor to a time of change in this country.
What kind of country are we changing into ? are we going to use this event as a catalyst for positive change, or like 2 other congressmen that have chosen now to carry weapons, are we going to perpetuate fear and keep the idea that political violence should be the norm ?
Gabrielle is a gun owner, she didn’t have it with her at the event, but knowing she could have had a gun was no deterrent to Loughner. I’m not sure what would have been a deterrent for that disturbed young man.
Are we going to make a drive for it to be socially acceptable that public servants must be armed ? Are we going to have to back up our political decisions not just with facts, figures and results, but with the muzzle of a gun too ? This way lies but one thing, that some will say either one side or the other is really looking for: War.
Left, right, in the end it’s just round and round.
Teach a person to shoot, and they can protect themselves, and possibly those close to them. Teach a person compassion, empathy and understanding, and you protect everyone.